August 26, 2010

My Journey to Becoming an Itinerant Teacher of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

I sort of stumbled into this job, being an itinerant teacher of deaf and hard of hearing students. Before, I had no intention of becoming an itinerant teacher. I thought I would just be a classroom teacher, either at a school for the deaf, in a self-contained classroom, or general education. When I applied to the job, I did not know that it was for an itinerant teaching position.

Before becoming involved with education, I was an 'artist' working part-time in an art store. I dabbled in film making and ceramics, while I was a painter hardly selling paintings (due to lack of motivation). I taught art to elementary aged children at various schools from time to time.

Then one day I met this student at my very first job of teaching a class.

A tiny girl, eight years old at the time, came up to me smiling, "You have hearing aids too!"

"What?" I mumbled, as I tried to figure out how to control the chaotic students in the classroom.

"In your ear. Hearing aid!" she squealed excitedly, pointing to my ear.

"Oh, yes. I do. And you do too," I acknowledged, still not getting it.

She kept looking at me smiling and she started asking me questions about my hearing aid.

"When did you get it?" "Why do you have hearing aids?" "What can you hear?" "How much is your hearing aid?" she asked. 

Finally, when I was able to get the class to calm down, I sat down with her and tried to answer all of her questions. Sadly, I did not really know how to answer her questions. I did not fully understand what my hearing loss was or what it meant. But, I was so taken back by how excited this girl was. Before, she was pretty quiet and kept to herself. Now, she was chatting it up with me.

It made me feel good. I liked that we could relate to each other and that I shared something interesting and personal with this little girl, unlike the other students I worked with. Most of all, I really liked how she reacted to this. She was so happy and excited.

During the brief time I taught in her classroom, we talked about our hearing aids, I taught her how to clean and care for her hearing aid, and we discussed things we could hear or not hear. It was fun.

I learned that I really did not know or understand my hearing loss. If you gave me my audiogram, I would not really know how to read it. All I knew was that my left ear hears nothing and my right ear hears pretty well. I really did not know anything. I knew very little sign, pretty much only the alphabet.

So, I told myself that maybe I'll consider working with deaf children. I took sign language classes and then volunteered in various classrooms of deaf and hard of hearing students, while still working at the art store. Visiting schools and classes opened my eyes. Some classes were excellent and some were depressing. I wanted to work with deaf and hard of hearing students even more.

Taking American Sign Language (ASL) classes made me more interested in deaf and hard of hearing issues. I was fascinated by the concept of Deaf culture and deaf identity. I went to several deaf events and meet ups, trying to learn ASL. At first, I entered the interpreting program, but quickly found that it was not for me. Then, I left my art store job and worked in a mental health counseling center servicing deaf and hard of hearing individuals. It was a very interesting job. I will have to write about this job later. I continued taking ASL classes for three years, until I felt I was comfortable enough to use it on my own. I met many wonderful people and just absolutely loved it.

I knew what it was that I wanted to do.

So, I went to graduate school in New York and entered the Deaf Education program there. I studied for two and a half years and graduated with masters degrees in deaf education and early childhood education.

I came back to my hometown and was dismayed at how hard it was to get a teaching job, any teaching job. The ones who were honest with me, said that I did not have enough experience (then give it to me!) or that I was overqualified.

After a few months of job searching, I decided to get a job at a daycare facility.

Boy, that was a tough job! I loved the little guys though.

After six long months, I left to take a part-time job teaching in a deaf/hoh preschool classroom within a public school. I loved it and was so happy to be doing something I thoroughly enjoyed.

Then I landed two jobs. A part-time job as a parent adviser for families with deaf and hard of hearing children, and a full-time job as an itinerant teacher, my current job.

So, here I am.  So far so good. I love my job!



  1. e), your story about the 8 year old girl getting excited about your hearing aid struck a chord with me. When I worked in mainstreamed programs, the kids were astonished to find out I was deaf. They asked me a whole bunch of questions about myself. I didn't realize until later that these deaf kids are starved for interactions with deaf adults. All the adult staff in their schools were hearing. Many deaf children grow up thinking they will become hearing when they are adults, simply because they have never met any deaf adults. I shared personal information about myself to the extent I felt comfortable (where I was from, previous schools, marital status, whether I had children, how I became deaf, if my parents were deaf or hearing, even my age). Later, when I reported to the DHH team about those encounters, I got scolded for telling the students anything about me. The social worker even told me "I would never tell students anything personal about me." I was taken aback by the vehemence of their reactions. I mean, I'm sharing basic superficial info that I would tell most deaf people who asked, not revealing my deepest darkest secrets. I was taught that for deaf people to share info with other deaf people is the cultural norm.

    anyway, I'm glad you love your job as an itinerant teacher and would love to hear more about it!

  2. Anon. makes a good point. I remember when I was probably 10 or so, asking my mom if I would be able to hear by the time I was 14. Apparently, 14 was a magic age for me...? :)

    But I didn't know any deaf or hard of hearing adults, either, so I couldn't imagine what adulthood was going to look like with hearing aids. I guess I just assumed that I would have to reach an age where I was no longer hard of hearing. I wish I had more d/hh adults in my life as a kid, and I too am glad you took the opportunity to chat with the girl. You never know what kind of an impact that may have made.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences! I love reading about them!

  3. It is a shame how many schools and places of work discourage people from sharing personal things about themselves. Anon- it is a shame that they scolded you for doing something so natural. At other schools, I have been told the same and that I must remain professional at all times, meaning never share anything about yourself outside of school. What? Like I am going to talk about how I partied over the weekend and watched inappropriate movies.

    But, I do understand where they are coming from. I understand that many teachers have gotten in trouble in the past for revealing certain personal information about themselves. I guess they figured that it would be easier if we don't share anything personal about ourselves.

    Luckily, where I am at, everyone encourages me to talk with the kids about myself and what it was like to grow up hard of hearing. Obviously, I have to be careful what I share. Gotta use common sense.

    It is hard being the only hard of hearing or deaf student in your class or even the entire school. I am the only deaf/hoh adult my students have really encountered thus far.

    I wish I was exposed to more hard of hearing people growing up. I would have understood so much more about myself, and I could have saved myself a lot of trouble.

    That's why I am glad I am a part of HLAA-where I meet with and talk with others who understand where I am coming from in some respect.

    Thanks for your comments. I appreciate hearing your thoughts and sharing your experiences.



  4. I am sitting looking out at the sea and downloading interesting articles on "inclusion" as it is the new buzz word. I am an intinerat teacher of the deaf in New Zealand and have been reading this blog. Most interesting and I can relate to most of what is being said. Our role has changed enormouly over the last few years and we are required to emphasise the oral language and literacy part of the curriculum. However we also ensure that the children on our caseloads meet with each other as often as possible through Keep in Touch days, meet deaf adults and understand about their ears, hearing loss and devices. The overloaded curriculum!! The "never enough time" is so true!!


Keep it civil.